Tony Gonzalez dunked at Arrowhead Stadium one final time. And then got booed.
Chiefs fans went over the top in welcoming Gonzalez back to town with a boisterous standing ovation before Sunday’s 40-24 loss to the Falcons. The decibel meter rivaled noise created following a Chiefs touchdown.
Gonzalez waved, blew kisses to the stands and went about his business on the Falcons sideline. After that, the mushy love-fest was over.
Gonzalez played a key role in Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s near-flawless performance and Chiefs fans sounded off in displeasure after each catch the future Hall of Famer recorded.
“All my teammates were like, ‘All those jerseys here, man, it’s like a home game for you.’ I’ll tell you what, like I said before, there’s nothing better than a Kansas City Chief fan,” Gonzalez said. “There are so many of them, so many die-hards. It’s just a special feeling to come home like this.”
Gonzalez began his farewell tour at the place everything started.
Oddly out of place inside the visitor’s locker room, the 36-year old tight end wanted to ensure Chiefs fans understood how grateful he was for the pre-game welcome.
“It was great,” Gonzalez said. “Words, I don’t even know if I’ll do them justice by describing it. When they came out and said the Lamar Hunt family wants to welcome me back and the crowd made all that noise, that was an unbelievable feeling.
Playing at Arrowhead Stadium for the first (and final) time since a trade sent him to the Falcons in 2009, Gonzalez finished his afternoon with five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. His seven-yard touchdown catch from Ryan in the third quarter extended Atlanta’s lead to 34-17.
The football got away from Gonzalez during the ensuing touchdown celebration, but Ryan quickly rounded up the loose ball and handed it to the sure-handed tight end for one final dunk over an Arrowhead goal post.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even going to dunk it, but I guess the ball went flying out of there,” Gonzalez said. “Matt all of a sudden comes up to me, and he puts it in my chest. He said, ‘Go dunk that ball.’ So I went up there and dunked it.
“I heard the boos coming with it, but I want all the fans to know it wasn’t a disrespectful thing. That’s me. I made my bones coming up in this league, and I definitely just wanted to make sure I was true to myself and go up there and dunk it.”
Fifteen seasons after making his NFL debut with the Chiefs, Gonzalez proved he could still throw it down.
“It was a great moment, not only for him personally, but for Kansas City fans too,” Ryan said of encouraging Gonzalez to dunk at Arrowhead one last time. “He is such a great part of this organization, probably the greatest tight end to have ever played the game. I think deep down in their hearts Kansas City fans probably loved seeing that one more time and it was just fun to be a part of it.”
Gonzalez kept the football for his collection and later, according to wide receiver Roddy White, ordered his teammates Kansas City Barbeque for the ride back to Atlanta.
In his return, Gonzalez looked more like the player who Chiefs fans watched re-write NFL record books for 12 seasons than a player embarking on the final season of his career.
“It’s just good to be back,” Gonzalez said. “Last night I was on the Plaza. I went back to my old place, my old condo, and took pictures in front of it. It’s been like a homecoming for me.”
It was vintage Tony G. at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Both before and after the game.